EduLinks – Week ending 13 May 2011

Starting today, EduLinks is going to be a regular, weekly affair.

Part weekly round-up of HE news, part useful linkage, EduLinks will now be based on my Twitter output over the last 7 days.

Since I already strive to get great links out over Twitter in the hope they’ll be useful to you, it makes sense to bring EduLinks in line with that. Hope the format works for you.

Fees concern and clearance sales

Universities Minister, David Willetts, has been making headlines this week. Times Higher Education first announced that Willetts was considering a quota-free recruitment of self-funding UK students. But once The Guardian reported on the possibility on Monday, there was a public outcry.

Willetts spoke on Radio 4, which only seemed to excite the story further. It gathered pace so quickly, that I wrote about the situation in my post ‘Upfront fees, perks for the rich, and the social mobility problem‘. The Daily Mash covered the story in a slightly different way, announcing, “It’s basically £36,000 for a hat”.

By the afternoon, the government had to put out a new response from Willetts, urging:

“There is no question of wealthy students being able to buy a place at university. Access to a university must be based on ability to learn not ability to pay.”

Sadly, all this panic took the focus away from the government’s new site for future students, Your Future. The site attempts to explain the new student fees system from September 2012. While some people have complained that there should be a clearer repayment calculator and greater stress on prices being nearer £9,000 than £6,000 for most students, the site is still a welcome addition.

Later in the week, The Independent interviewed Willetts. He mentioned the possibility of lower fees for places in clearing, which The Indy quickly dubbed ‘The great university clearance sale‘.

Gaining degrees and finding employment

University Alliance launched a new publication to highlight stories of empowered students. ‘More than just a degree‘ sets out to “refute notions of lazy students, unresponsive universities and unsatisfied employers”.

At the same time, McDonalds boss, Jill McDonald, suggested that not all school leavers should automatically opt to go to university. McDonald said, “The road many young people take today may not be the one we took in the past”. See Guardian and Standard reports for more.

The BBC, meanwhile, addresses the growing concern of ‘underemployment‘:

“Four years ago, there were 32% of university leavers in low-skilled jobs six months after graduating.

The study forecasts that this will rise to 42%, for graduates leaving this summer.”

Adding to the jobs concern, the state-funded Graduate Internship Scheme was closed.

Limiting student liability

For many reasons, not all students stay on at uni. Upon leaving, some students may have only been attending for a matter of days. However, they could have been liable to pay their full tuition fee for the year, before any student loan was liable to be paid.

Working with NUS, the government has agreed (subject to parliamentary approval) to restrict student liability for fees. While this may not impact upon large numbers of students, it is an important and welcome development.